Originally posted on April 6, 2013
How pathetic that someone even researched something as painfully obvious as this:
“Modern Parenthood: Roles of Moms and Dads Converge as They Balance Work and Family,” is based on a survey of more than 2,500 American adults and an analysis of the American Time Use Survey, which measures the amount of time Americans spend doing various activities.
Almost half the dads surveyed, 46 per cent, reported feeling like they didn’t spend enough time with their kids, compared to 23 per cent of moms who thought the same thing.
In the past, work-life balance was seen as a women’s issue, said Wendy Wang, a research associate with the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. But she pointed to the fact that half of working fathers reported finding it very or somewhat difficult to balance work and family.
“Dads are doing more at home, and then they still do a lot at paid work,” she said. “They’re facing the same issues that mom used to face.”
And the study found that half the dads would prefer to stay home, but had to work because they needed the income.
Wang is wrong. Fathers did not just start facing these issues. They always faced them. For some reason, some people that until recently fathers had no interest in their children. They believe that until recently fathers simply went to work, came home, ate dinner, read the paper or watched television, and went to sleep. The idea that fathers wanted to spend time with their children but could not because they had to work to provide for them never occurs to them.
So now we have a study telling us what we should already know: fathers want to spend more time with their children.
That is not always an option for many men. Most jobs have fixed hours, and people often work overtime to advance their careers or put more food on the table. A father working that kind of job has few options. Some men can set their hours, however, the job may still require a lot of attention, making it difficult for those men to spend as much time with their children as they would like. Some men, like my former foster father, may be lucky enough to work from home. That allowed my foster father to raise my godson, and as a result they have a closer relationship. But all men do not have those choices. There is also the cultural backlash:
For men, who are still socialized to take on the breadwinner role, finding balance between work and life is becoming more of a problem, but doesn’t receive the same attention as women’s struggle, experts say.
Men are timid about asking for family-related accommodations at work, and are shot down when they do, said Kerry Daly, dean of the College of Social and Applied Human Sciences at the University of Guelph. He calls it a “self-reinforcing vicious circle.”
Brian Russell runs parenting programs at a local and provincial level, and said work-family balance for men has been a discussion for longer than we may realize.
“I think a big shift would be if we could have policies that are focused around these kinds of issues for men. Because it’s not just a men’s issue, it’s a family issue. Supporting men will support families and child development,” he said.
Russell is right that this is not just a men’s issue, however, the question is what will people do about it. There is not much support on a local, state, or federal level to reach out to fathers. Efforts to support fathers can easily result in opposition from women’s groups who may think it is taking attention away from more “important” issues.
That said, as stupid as the survey is, it does bring attention to this issue. Many men do want to spend more time with their children, and this survey can get people involved in making changes to businesses so that men can have that opportunity.